As Musikgarten teachers, we always have to be on our toes, and have lots of tips up our sleeve!! “Educating” parents and setting up expectations from the beginning will help immensely! Here are a few quick tips or reminders to help manage the classroom experience:
- Use simple pictures to convey your expectations (i.e. ONLY run when you hold your grownups hand; it is OK to sit or stand by your grownup or the teacher; it is OK to stand in the middle of the circle!) This will especially help the toddler and preschool members of your classes.
- Remember to rid your teaching space of any and all distractions, and look ahead to what you will need for the class like instruments, CD’s, paper, crayons, etc. Have them ready but out of reach!
- Remind your parents: React or Intervene ONLY when the child is doing something that is dangerous to him/her or someone else in the room, the child is doing something destructive, or the child is carrying on at such a level that it is distracting or causing distress to others!! Otherwise, wandering or seeming to not be engaged is perfectly normal and acceptable behavior. Children are taking in everything in the environment!
Here are a few book resources on how children learn which have been huge influences and help in my teaching:
- Jane Healy, PhD.: Endangered Minds: Why Children Don’t Think and What We Can Do About It, Your Child’s Growing Mind, and Different Learners.
- Carla Hannaford, PhD.: Smart Moves: Why Learning is NOT all in Your Head. This is especially helpful in learning the how and why of child behavior!
Here is one other resource I would like to mention: Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey. This book is written primarily for classroom educators, so I’ve done a little “editing” to these excerpts using some words/examples that might take place in a Musikgarten class.
Conscious Discipline Chapter 3: pages 91-97, entitled “The Power of Attention: What You Focus on, You Get More of.”
1) “In a given scenario where two children are ‘fighting’ over a scarf or a drum, how will you react? Will you focus on what is wrong? “What are you two doing? What is the rule about pushing? No pushing! Do you want a time out?” Or will you focus on action needed to solve the problem. Calmly say, “Jane, you wanted that red scarf that John has. You didn’t know how to ask him so you pushed him. Say ‘May I have that scarf please?’ Say that now.” Of course, a 2-year-old may not have the language to say that yet, but you could ‘help’ them, with parent’s assistance.”
2) “Often we carry on about the things we want children NOT to do, to stop doing, or what we will not allow. Think about these commands and questions: “Stop talking! Don’t push! Don’t run! Don’t hit the wall! Do you want to go to time out?”
What if you were told “Don’t think about a purple alligator”? What would pop into your mind? Of course, a purple alligator! Watch a toddler if you say, “Don’t touch my CD Player!” what does the child do? He/she reaches out to touch the buttons! Her brain heard “touch the CD Player”, so she looks at you proudly as she reaches out! Imagine her confusion when you growl, “What did I tell you?” and push her away.
Redirect the child, instead of focusing on what you don’t want. You could say, “You see all the things on my table! The CD player, the sticks, the scarves…. Let me pick you up so you can see them better! Now let’s go find an instrument to play”, OR “let’s rejoin the class OR sit by mommy!”
Children younger than 5 or 6 simply do not understand conjugated verbs such as “Don’t”. Your goal should be to create descriptive, mental images to help them be successful. The brains of young children are governed by mental pictures, not words”.
Think of what you “see” with these comments:
“Use your walking feet around the room so no one gets hurt!”
“Hold on tightly to your sticks! No throwing!”
“Children listen so you will hear my story.”
Hopefully these ideas will give you some tools to use in keeping a happy and safe environment in your Musikgarten classes, but remember that some days, nothing works! It’s a “full moon”, or it’s “going to rain”….. Just smile, keep singing and making music! I’ve even been known to say “I think these children are done for the day!” and dismiss a few minutes early!
Lianne Brewer, Musikgarten Teacher since 1994, Springfield, IL, and now Southern California